iphone-15-pro-max-review

iPhone 15 Pro Max review: is Apple making a play for the Android crowd?

Published on 19 October, 2023 - With its telephoto lens and triple-camera setup, the iPhone 15 Pro Max seems like an obvious choice for budding photographers. However, does the debut of the A17 Pro chip bring the processing power needed for this device to shine? Find out exactly below!

Say hello to the iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple unveiled the iPhone 15 Pro Max to eager audiences in September 2023 as part of the anticipated ‘Wonderlust’ event. Joining the Pro Max in the iPhone 15 series are the standard entry-level model, the iPhone 15 Plus, and the iPhone 15 Pro.

All devices in the iPhone 15 series now feature USB-C, while the Dynamic Island has become the new normal. The 15 Pro Max also includes a refined triple-camera setup, while becoming the first iPhone model ever to feature the performance-boosting A17 Pro chipset. Now that the iPhone 15 Pro Max release date of 22 September 2023 has been and gone, you’re probably wondering whether to invest in the upgrade. Not sure whether it’s worth replacing your 14 Pro Max? Our review breaks down all the information you need.

iPhone 15 Pro Max Specs

Performance

Processor

A17 Pro

CPU

Hexa Core

Operating System

iOS 17

Memory (RAM)

8GB

Internals and battery

Technology

Lithium-ion

Battery capacity

4,441mAh

Autonomy

29 hours

Max charge speed

15W (wireless), 25W (wired)

Camera

Wide (rear)

48MP, f/1.8

Ultrawide (rear)

12MP, f/2.2

Telephoto (rear)

12MP, f/2.8

Selfie camera (front)

12MP, f/1.9

Zoom

5x optical zoom

Video recording

4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, 3D video supported

Screen

Technology

Super Retina XDR OLED

Screen size

6.7 inches

Screen resolution

2796 x 1290 pixels

Pixel density

460 ppi

Display frequency

120Hz

Height and weight

Weight

221 grams

Size

76.7 x 159.9 x 8.3mm

Storage

Internal storage

256GB / 512GB / 1TB

Source: https://www.apple.com/iphone-15-pro/specs/

iPhone 15 Pro Max design

Before we start exploring under the hood and taking a look at all those iPhone 15 Pro Max specs, it’s worth admiring the exterior of this latest addition to Apple’s line up. The stainless steel that’s been used in previous models has been replaced with titanium. This new material certainly looks great, but it doesn’t make a major difference to the weight of the device. Weighing in at 221 grams, it’s slightly leaner than the 14 Pro Max, which weighs in at 240 grams. However, the minor weight reduction does bring the 15 Pro Max more in line with competitor models like the Google Pixel 7 and Samsung Galaxy S23+, which both weigh below 200 grams.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably heard about all the commotion regarding the titanium housing of the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. When handling the phone, I did notice that the back of the device was slightly warmer than what I was used to. This didn’t make the 15 Pro Max uncomfortable to use, but there’s obviously an unresolved issue that Apple needs to address in the future.

If colour preferences play a big role in your purchasing decisions, you might find the range of shades available here a little disappointing. Black, white, natural, and blue are your only options when it comes to iPhone 15 Pro Max colours. If you’re someone with a soft spot for vibrant hues, these muted tones aren’t going to win you over. However, they do work well alongside the titanium housing.

👉 Read more about the colours available in the new iPhone 15 series here: Introducing the new iPhone 15 colours

iphone-15-pro-max-colour-lineup

It feels like we’ve been waiting a lifetime for Apple to wake up and realize that consumers want USB-C as standard. There’s no real reason why Apple had to wait this long to make the switch, but the addition of USB-C is a welcome one here. A more practical change is the inclusion of the Action Button. This button replaces the on/off switch and can be modified to carry out a variety of actions. You can use it to launch your camera, access a shortcut, and much more. Currently, the Action Button is only available on the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. However, it would be nice to see this become a staple of flagship models in future iPhone line ups.

Display and screen specs

When unboxing this device for the first time, I didn’t really notice any major visual differences between this model and the iPhone 14 Pro Max I’ve been using for a while. The iPhone 15 Pro Max screen size is 6.7 inches, which is the same dimensions as the 14 Pro and Pro Max. Here, you’ll find a Super Retina XDR OLED, which is the standard across all iPhone 15 models and identical to the specs of the iPhone 14 Pro series.

However, the 15 Pro Max does have a 120Hz refresh rate, which is a significant upgrade on the 60Hz refresh rate of the standard 15 and 15 Plus models. Whether or not you’ll need this depends on what you’re using the phone for. The standard refresh rate of the iPhone 14 Pro Max is more than enough for everyday applications. I also didn’t notice any major differences in peak brightness levels when using the two models outside.

iphone-15-pro-max-screen

The iPhone 15 Pro Max features the Dynamic Island, but this feature has been around since the launch of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. At a push, I’d argue that the streamlined bezels of the 15 Pro Max make the most of the display. However, this is purely an aesthetic improvement, rather than a feature with any practical benefit.

Camera capabilities

While I struggled to find many differences between the 15 Pro Max and its counterpart from Apple’s 14 lineup, the triple-camera setup does boast a few new features. While the 14 Pro featured a telephoto zoom camera, the sensor included with the 15 Pro Max offers an increased 5x zoom.

Apple has also made use of tetraprism design with the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro Max. In short, there’s a piece of folded glass located just below the lens, which reflects far more light than a standard sensor. This design feature means you can replicate focal lengths typically used in professional photography. The telephoto lens credentials of the 15 Pro Max are also bolstered by optical image stabilisation.

What does this all mean for you? The 15 Pro Max makes it easier to capture shots of long-range subjects. While digital zoom can be used in a pinch, there’s always a trade-off when it comes to image clarity and definition. Here, that’s not really a problem.

The rest of the camera setup is identical to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. What’s more, you’ll find no major surprises when it comes to video recording capabilities, with users able to shoot 4K at 60fps. However, there are a few new features to play with, such as Cinematic mode and a cheap and cheerful 3x digital zoom. If you do use your smartphone to capture a lot of video content, USB-C will make life easier. ProRes file formats are now supported, with the convenience of fast USB-C transfers.

👉 Find out more about the iPhone 15 series camera capabilities here: iPhone 15 camera: what’s changed?

iphone-15-pro-series-photo

Shot taken on the iPhone 15 Pro series - photo from https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2023/09/apple-unveils-iphone-15-pro-and-iphone-15-pro-max/

Performance

As with previous Pro Max models, you’ll find a new and improved chip powering the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Although the Bionic A16 chip unveiled with the iPhone 14 Pro was met with a positive reception, it still doesn’t hold its own against the likes of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. However, the A17 Pro powering the iPhone 15 Pro Max does give it a run for its money.

To be honest, I struggled to push the Bionic A16 to its limits, even when running simultaneous apps on my iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’ll admit that the iPhone 15 Pro Max runs incredibly smoothly, even with a slate of RAM-intensive applications open. If you’re only using your smartphone for web browsing, streaming videos, and everyday gaming, you’ll encounter no performance issues here. In terms of storage, you have three capacities to choose from. The 1TB iPhone 15 Pro Max model is the most expensive of the bunch, but you’re unlikely to need this much storage if you’re already making use of cloud services.

There’s a marginal increase in battery capacity here compared to the 14 Pro Max. While you’d expect similar levels of battery life, that A17 Pro chip can put more of a dent in your power reserves. The iPhone 14 Pro Max performs a little better across the board in terms of battery life. If you’re only interested in watching videos at full brightness, an iPhone 14 Pro Max should give you around 11 hours of playback. With the iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s more in the region of 9.5 hours. When it comes to web browsing, battery performance was more or less identical.

Now that USB-C is here, you have a new charging option to play with. If you’re opting for wired charging, Apple claims you can reach half capacity in as little as 30 minutes. After a few practice runs, this estimate seems fairly reliable. Meanwhile, a full charge takes around two hours. While MagSafe charging is supported, it’s not particularly reliable. Personally, I wouldn’t depend on this method for replenishing a drained battery if you need your device ready to go in the morning.

iphone-15-pro-max-cable

Photo from https://www.apple.com/uk/newsroom/2023/09/apple-unveils-iphone-15-pro-and-iphone-15-pro-max/

Software specs

Even when I’ve been using an older iPhone model, I make a habit of ensuring I’m using the latest version of iOS. Most of the time, updates are pretty minor and hardly worth the hassle of having your phone out of action for a short period. However, iOS 16 did prove to be one of the most feature-rich updates in recent Apple history. With the iPhone 15 Pro Max, iOS 17 comes as standard. If you’re not familiar with the software yet, don’t expect to be bowled over by anything major. That being said, there are a lot of new features you can put to use here.

Apple’s Lock Screen has been given a makeover with the new StandBy mode. You can add customisable setups to include time and date displays, include your favorite widgets, and more. The iOS 17 upgrades also make it easier to stay in touch. The Live Voicemail feature means you can pick up a call as someone is actively leaving a message, while Inline replies make it easier to stay focused during lengthy text discussions. It’s also easier than ever to access your online accounts with the shared passwords feature, while you can also choose to automatically delete any 2FA codes stored on your device.

Does iOS 17 boast anything that only the iPhone 15 Pro Max can make use of? Not really. However, you’ll still have fun pulling apart the capabilities of this surprisingly rich software update.

How much does the iPhone 15 Pro Max cost?

As with other premium models from iPhone ranges, the iPhone 15 Pro Max comes with a pretty hefty price tag. If you’re picking one up directly from Apple, expect to pay *£1,199 for a 256GB model. If you want to upgrade to the 1TB version, expect an iPhone 15 Pro Max price of *£1,599.

While iPhone 15 models might seem like a cheaper option, you need to bear in mind that Apple now only offers the flagship 14 and 14 Plus models, with the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max having been discontinued. Maybe I’m being a little suspicious, but it seems odd that Apple has removed a competitively cheaper model that delivers similar performance to the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The good news is that you can still get your hands on an iPhone 14 Pro Max. At Back Market, you can pick up a perfectly working refurbished iPhone 14 Pro Max for around £744.88 (price checked at 19/10/2023). You’ll be able to make a serious saving on your next smartphone, while also ensuring you’re making sustainable shopping choices. The less smartphones you buy, the less e-waste you’re producing. Feeling cautious about buying refurbished electronics? You don’t have to be. At Back Market, our expert team of refurbishers ensures every device we sell is in full working order before being made available to customers.

What’s more, every product listed for sale at Back Market comes with an extended 12-month warranty. Should your device fail before those 12 months are up, you’ll be entitled to a full refund. You can even send your item back if you have a change of heart. Simply return your purchase to the seller within 30 days and you'll be eligible for a full refund.

*price checked at https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/buy-iphone/iphone-15-pro on 19/10/2023

iPhone 15 Pro Max: pros and cons

Pros

Cons

USB-C is now standard

Hard to justify the price tag

Customisable Action Button

No major upgrades compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Titanium housing makes for a lighter device

No real change to battery life

Triple-camera system is one of Apple’s best

Slow wireless charging speeds

Telephoto lens should appeal to photography enthusiasts

Features like spatial video aren’t currently available

Powerful A17 Pro processor

Everyday users will struggle to make use of many features

Is the iPhone 15 Pro Max worth the premium price tag?

Are you someone who can regularly be found waiting in line at the Apple Store to pick up the latest iPhone model? Even if money is no object, justifying the price of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a little difficult when you consider the technical specs.

There are a few notable upgrades from its Pro Max predecessor here. The A17 Pro chip has real potential, but there’s very little that you’ll be doing with an iPhone 15 Pro Max to warrant that extra processing power. Apple has invested a lot of effort into the triple-camera setup here, with the telephoto sensor being a real standout. However, it’s not going to raise the photography game of everyday users. Professional photographers might appreciate the telephoto functionality as a novelty, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max size is more streamlined than its predecessor and more comfortable to handle. However, the switch to titanium has only shaved around 20 grams off the weight of the device. It might be more in line with the dimensions of competitor models like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Google Pixel 7 Pro, but it’s a slow crawl toward the industry standard, rather than a major selling point.

In general, I found the most welcome features were actually long overdue. The Dynamic Island, Action Button, and USB-C functionality will all go down well with Apple users. However, Apple is bringing up the rear here, rather than leading the charge. Ultimately, the iPhone 14 Pro delivers almost the same level of functionality, only at a significantly lower price. If you’re thinking about saying goodbye to Apple devices altogether, consider switching to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for a more affordable smartphone that’s loaded with user-friendly features.